ALE Summer 2003 No. 311

The Broad Arrow

A number of pubs and former pubs in the area have a broad arrow symbol carved into the beam over the fire in the bar, on a lintel, or some other prominent place. These are connected with one Richard Ramsey Fielder MA, of Jesus College. From the mid-1860s he based himself at the Lord Nelson (Five Miles from Anywhere, No Hurry) Inn, declaring himself King of Upware. Conspicuous in his red waistcoat and corduroy breeches, he boated round the fens drinking, writing doggerel verses and fighting with bargees.

On his boat Fielder had a large brownware jug emblazoned with, amongst other things, his initial and the Broad Arrow he had adopted as his crest (the jug is now in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge). He also carved this arrow prominently in each of his favourite drinking haunts. One of his rhymes lists some of them:

At the Five Miles from Anywhere
And the Sun at Waterbeach,
At Fordham Green Dragon
And the Black Horse at Reach,
At Fordham Cherry Tree
And Wicken's Maids Head,
At Denver's Jenyn's Arms
Is the Broad Arrow spread.
Which gives some idea of the area over which he roamed and boozed, although his Broad Arrow could certainly also be found at Earith and undoubtedly elsewhere. Another bit of his doggerel goes into more detail of one of the pubs:
The Maids Head at Wicken
Jim Kettle lives here
He'll give you good beer,
A warm fire in the winter
And good tap all the year.
He'll trust if he knows you,
If not he intends
To keep but short reckonings
And so stay good friends.
Another pub he frequented was the Plough at Fen Ditton. The landlord here once saved Fielder from drowning (in the river not in a pot of beer) and was presented with an engraved quart tankard by way of thanks. The Folk Museum, Cambridge, has a poor photograph of what is possibly this mug under accession number 201.68; it is a silver tankard presented by Richard Ramsey Fielder to Joshua B Worts, publican of Clayhithe, in August 1864, having a Latin inscription with, in the centre, a circle and arrow, the symbol carved by Fielder in the pubs he used. In 1968 the tankard was in the possession of L A Anderson, 16 Bridge Street, St Ives, grandson of Worts. The only problem is that Worts was almost certainly the licensee of the House of Lords Inn, now the Bridge Inn, at Clayhithe not the Plough at Fen Ditton. Has the story swapped pubs?

Unfortunately Fielder turned to boring respectability in later years, retiring to Folkestone and clean living.

R Flood


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